Joe

I wasn’t honest with you. You asked me if I wanted to get coffee with you sometime but I said I stopped drinking coffee 3 years ago. When you asked me why, I had two choices to answer that – lie or tell you the truth. It was so much easier to lie and just tell you how I hate that coffee stains my teeth and gives me a bad case of the jitters.

You didn’t know I was lying. You didn’t even suspect. I guess, my theatre training really got me far in the game of lies. I’m almost always winning.

I’m so tired of losing. I’ve lost you because we didn’t fight for each other hard enough. Sometimes, I feel like I’m losing my battle with coffee, too. Why am I denying myself something I really love? Why did I even go cold turkey? It’s just coffee. Right?

I haven’t had soda in years, I’ve been sober from alcohol longer than I have been with coffee.

When my favourite uncle passed away, I wanted to call you up so badly. Let you know. He really liked you and I know you enjoyed his company as much. But I couldn’t call you because I realized if I did, I’d just fall back into the habit of seeking you out whenever I needed comfort. You were so good at that. We were so good with walking hand in hand, going into the dark and coming out brighter than when we came in.

Even through all the good, it wasn’t enough.

I went into a coffee shop we’ve never been to together. The whole place just smelled liked the best brew in the world. I ordered my first cup of coffee in a year. When I got to a table, I sat down, put the mug in front of me and just stared at it for a good long moment. My heart hurt so bad. My uncle is gone and the void he left was so huge that I wanted to just say ‘fuck it all’. Rebel against the unfairness of the universe by chugging every last drop of coffee in that mug. To hell with all this ‘no more coffee’ bullshit. I grabbed the handle of my mug, the familiar warmth was the kind of comfort I needed. I tried to raise it, but I couldn’t. I left feeling even more lost.

So, I decided I had to give up everything I associated with you if I wanted to move forward.

Coffee included.

You see, when I told you I hate that coffee stains my teeth, I wasn’t lying about it because I know I could always just visit the dentist.

It was you. You’re the stain I wanted out because that stain is a reminder of everything that went wrong, of everything I’ve lost. You’re the caffeine in my blood that gives me jitters even after you’re long gone.

One day, I’m going to get myself a cup of joe without thinking about you. I’m going to take my first sip and it will be like meeting an old childhood friend.

As a young girl,
who wore her heart
on her sleeves,
I’ve placed
trust in every
palm that
was held before me.

I drove out, given, taken
laughter where it suited.

My dreams were stories
I openly told people
who would lend me their ears.
In return, they treated them
as if they were gifts
they were too eager
to receive.

The questions I had
were met with answers
as if my life and theirs
depended on them.

The thrill of growing up
and knowing my words
could pull people
like magnets was a gift
I took for granted.

I discovered that words,
that left the tongue,
and fell on ears
and caught by eyes,
was like a daisy,
plucked from the roots,
never to bloom again
from the earth,
but would forever
seek residence
in the heart and
foster in the mind.

I found that words
could be both –
the reddest of roses
and sharpest of thorns.

Slowly, unknowingly,
the sleeves of my shirts grew longer.
Open and willing palms turned into
clenched fists.
laughter was unlike the oxygen
I breathed.
it was a rare stone,
worked hard for,
slaved over,
only to find out,
on occasion that
they were fake.

(I doled out laughter and smiles
as if I had them in abundance
to get me in and out of
situations that suited me.)

I didn’t know.
I was already a player
in the game of pretend
they called ‘adulthood’,
which I thought was a myth,
but all too well,
discovered, bruised,
burnt, that no one plays
this game willingly,
but we’re thrust upon it,
pretending to know the rules
from the get-go.

no wonder when I was a child,
the adults craved
the company of the naive girl.
realization struck me –
the innocence of a child,
is unlike the innocence
of an adult.
the innocence of a grown up,
is a weapon of destruction,
whereas to a child,
it is a shield of comfort.
It is endless possibility and hope
until it is broken down
by messy hands
and clumsy tongues.
but rebuilt with the will
and strength formed from
years of falling down.

This is my secret place.
This is where I hide from
the chaos of the world.
This is where peace is sought,
not often caught,
but when found,
solitude.

This is my secret place.
This is where I find
the beauty in chaos.
This place is mostly safe,
not always though.
Because thoughts,
sometimes,
are dangerous.

When dust settles,
there, in my secret place,
I gather all the ghosts
that haunt me.
Greet them.
Bid them,
until then,
rest.

there’s an innocence to holding hands.
that first brush of the tip of his fingers
against my palm.
the way they glide across it,
aiming for the gaps.
the way his fingers curl,
almost hesitantly,
as if i am delicate,
as if holding me too tightly
will break me.
because he knows,
between us,
holding hands will never be just
about hands touching.
so gently, he continues.
fingers clasping.
breath held.

so much for innocence
and the promise of more to come.

Here we are, the last of the last time. This is it – the moment we dreaded but essentially need. We say nothing to preserve the beautiful beginning of our run. Our departures are long overdue. But believe in forever, that we had a gradual beginning to a most splendid adventure. An adventure to inspire the movement of our stories into the next chapter that was long in the process of conception. Here we are, waiting for the right moment to take the first step forward into tomorrow. Here we are and here we go.

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December 27, 2014, I have made one of the best and worst decision of my life.

I was on a vacation. I was supposed to be happy.

I wasn’t.

It was late at night when I decided I should go for a swim in the pool in front of the cabin I was staying at. The temperature was freezing so I opted to pull on my rash guard on top of the swimsuit I already had on. Hypothermia is never appealing nor is it the way I want to go.

So, I checked out my surroundings, there weren’t any people occupying the nearby cabins and the pool was surrounded by trees, very minimal light from nearby posts and the light outside of my cabin illuminated it. Carefully, i trekked my way down a few strategically placed steps on the slope leading to the pool area.

I tried to make out my surrounding and thinking maybe this wasn’t the best decision I’ve made because something might happen to me and no one would know. But the other part of my brain, the one I kept suppressed, kept telling me to just do something spontaneous for once. So, you could say, the reckless side of me won over. I checked for the depth markings at the side of the pool where it’s shallow, about 3 feet, and decided to jump right in.

HOLY FROZEN HELL! I do not want to die of hypothermia!

I jumped right back on to the side of the pool and the responsible side of my brain did a subtle ‘I Told You So’ dance while I literally danced around (or jumped like stupid) cursing the world. Not one to give up easily (at that moment at least) I dipped my toe in the water and yep, it was freezing but probably bearable. I thought this’ll be a good story to tell my 2 dozen cats when I’m 50.

Carefully, I lowered my already wet legs back into the pool slowly, breathing like a pregnant woman about to undergo water birth without an epidural. The rush of cold water soaking me was exhilarating. As I went deeper into the pool, I realised the water seeping through my rashie was accompanied by adrenaline. I got braver and braver until I reached the 10 feet marker.

I’m no Olympic swimmer. I practically cheated my way through swimming class in grade school. But I can float like a dead leaf so I did that.

I stuck my arms out, carefully moving them as if I was making a snow angel in water. I had my eyes closed as I slowly drifted around the pool. The water was still freezing, the harsh night wind was cutting through my skin.

It was torture, I know, but also serene. Calm. How many of these moments will I have? The world around me is chaotic and the inside of my head was in a state of turmoil. The water was lulling me into this calm state and my mind was slowly blanking.

It was suddenly eerily quiet. Then it started to rain. I opened my eyes, listening to the symphony of the water lapping at my ears, the sound of leaves rustling, the wind howling, and the silent patter of rain. I tried to look around as much as I could afford while floating in water. It was dark, but I could see rain clouds beyond the outline of pine trees. A few stars peeked through the fast moving clouds that were a surprisingly light shade of grey and I could see a few bats flying overhead.

It rained harder and I was overcome with an intense feeling of melancholy. I  was trying to get over someone but I kept having this feeling where this adventure would be so much better if that person were with me at that moment. How jumping into the freezing water would have been funnier if someone was there to witness it and laughed along with me until our laughters turned into wheezing.

At the realisation, I started to cry. My sobs just an undertone to the orchestra of nature, and my tears danced with the rain. Floating in the water was suddenly impossible. I have never felt so morose than I did at that moment. Everything I was going through, the realisation that my life was shit came to me all at once. I cried like I never cried before. Not in the sense where it hurts. It was like, I was crying but there’s a hollow part in my chest where my heart used to be and my mind just tells me that I’m shedding tears because it hurts but it doesn’t really, crying became an automatic response to a phantom feeling. It was being numb even to your own pain.

I submerged my whole body in the water and just started punching and screaming and I’m suddenly frustrated beyond belief.

My lungs were already screaming for air but I stayed under water for as long as my body could hold. I stilled and opened my eyes, by that time, I was already numb and my fingers and toes were pruning. The freezing water did nothing to me. The chlorine in the water was a welcome sting to my eyes. In that moment, I made a decision – when I come up for air, my first breath belonged to me. I wasn’t breathing for anyone else anymore. I was living for me.

Slowly, I came up for air. I will never ever forget that first rush of air into my lungs. I will never forget that moment where I realised the water was freezing, or that the temperature probably dropped to 8 °C, nor the wind trying to cut my skin raw. I was alive. If I had taken my life 2 years prior I would never have felt this feeling of renewed hope. For the first time in a long time, I felt grateful to be alive.

(this whole time I was writing this, I had Ludovico Einaudi’s Divenire playing in the background. it wasn’t my intention to write this evening, but I started to, and then I kept going, so his album is the soundtrack to this post. every song was so fitting to everything I was writing it felt surreal and I didn’t realise it was hapening until I was into track 8. Oltremare. please give Divenire a listen.)

[Svanire is playing at this moment]

*this is real life. so is the accompanying image. i look back at that moment and I realise how much funnier things were, how painful it was to look at myself from that time in my life but also bittersweet.

PS. After realising I was ready to post this, fireworks started going off nearby and it was a light show outside my window. Okay, wrapping it up now.

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